Eighty two pit stops, countless overtaking manoeuvres and no end of wheel-to-wheel racing: who ever said Formula One could be boring?
For MERCEDES GP PETRONAS, the race in Istanbul confirmed our step forward that we made in China – but also reinforced just how much work is still ahead of us if we want to fight at the front. Ferrari made a step forward this weekend, and the development race is on for everybody if we are to start closing the gap to Red Bull.
Although both drivers lost position relative to where they started, Nico certainly got the maximum out of the car in the race, while Michael’s performance was spoiled by his lap two collision – but still gave plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
In the first of our series ‘The Dust Settles’, it’s now time to drill down a little deeper into our performance on Sunday…
Nico ran a four-stop strategy on Sunday, and therefore used five sets of tyres from his allocation of six. With three sets of options (including one new set) and three sets of primes available, the fastest way to run the strategy was to spend three stints on option and two on prime.
After the rear tyres on Nico’s first set of options suffered from high degradation, and hoping to exploit the strategic advantage of the new option tyres later in the races, the team decided to run the second and third stints on the less-favoured prime tyre.
However, the car wasn’t able to match the level of performance of those around it on high fuel, and the gap was further magnified by the fact that many of the other cars were running option tyres when Nico was on primes.
But this meant that Nico had a trump card to play in the final two stints, running options while most other cars were on prime. He emerged from his final stop on lap 44 in ninth position but was able to climb to fifth by the finish, picking off cars on older tyres as he went.
All in all, it was a strong drive to the limit of the car’s capabilities in Turkey. As Ross said post-race, the focus will now be on reducing the gap between our relative performance in qualifying and the race.
As soon as Michael’s front wing made contact with the right-rear wheel of Petrov’s car on lap two while battling for position at Turn 12, he faced an uphill battle.
Essentially, Michael ran a three-stop race to which that unplanned early pit stop was added. He used only four sets of tyres in the race: the set of options on which he started and completed the first two laps, was re-used for his final 13-lap stint to the chequered flag.
Indeed, the total time that Michael spent in the pits for that first stop to replace the damaged wing was 30.182s. At the end of the race, in 12th position, he was just 25 seconds behind Jenson Button, who had also run a three-stop strategy.
He may have been involved in plenty of on-track battles on Sunday, but Michael’s pace in clean air was extremely strong – even though, stopping out of phase with the cars around him, he had even more on-track scraps than during a normal race: when his tyres were old, the cars around him were running new, and vice versa.
But everything suggests that, without that early unscheduled stop, Michael would have been battling with Button and Heidfeld all afternoon, at the very least, for sixth place…
Sunday’s race saw a total of 82 pit stops – surely a record for any dry race in Formula One history. Of those stops, just over 20% - 17 to be precise – were completed in a pit-lane time of less than 21 seconds.
From those 17, six were made by MERCEDES GP PETRONAS – with Nico’s first stop delayed because of traffic from Heidfeld coming down the pitlane to his pit box just ahead of MERCEDES GP PETRONAS, while Michael’s first stop was abnormally long because of replacing the front wing.
The other teams to record stops under 21 seconds were: Red Bull (also six), Force India (three), McLaren (one) and Renault (one). Of the four fastest stops of the day, two were for MERCEDES GP PETRONAS – with the other two, including the fastest of all, made by Red Bull.
With so many pit stops, the role of the mechanics in deciding the outcome of the race is greater than ever. The numbers so far this year show that the dedication and performance of the MGP crew is second to none.